Thursday, 29 April 2010

I need to clear my kitchen out...

It's full already but I do need a large mixing bowl and this cupcake one from Debenhams will be a perfect replacement for the pink Mason Cash one that never seems to be in stock anywhere :(

And the matching utensil holder will look gorgeous in my cupcake kitchen! Also available is the matching cake stand. I hope they have more in the range when I get there!

Also getting in on the cupcake craze is Jamie Oliver with this cute mug - however, surely cupcakes are anti his war on obesity?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Zombie cupcakes take over the world

Well if you were to look through the soon to be released cupcake books, as I quite often do, you would think so. Not one, but two zombie cupcake books are due out in the next few months.

After being banished for so long to the land of the pretty and identical, the domestic and the twee, cupcakes are biting back. Here, Lily Vanilli shows how you can take inspiration from anywhere - insects, roadkill, zombies - and recreate it in cake, but always with a delicious result. This book is an introduction to making cakes that look weird, ugly and even grotesque - but that taste divine! There are amazing materials for making edible sculptures and hundreds of things you can do with natural ingredients. Give guests a shock with revoltingly realistic Marzipan Beetles, or add a crunch to your desserts with Morbid Meringue Bones, dipped in raspberry blood sauce. Try out a black cherry Dracula's Bite red velvet cupcake with cream cheese, eat your way through heavenly Fallen Angel Cakes or go for indulgent and truly dark chocolate Devil's Delight Cupcakes. If Ozzy Osbourne made cupcakes, these are the ones he'd want to eat.

Ok, I'm sold, one to add to the pre-order basket!

Next up, Zombie Cupcakes by Zilly Rosen, famous for the Obama/Lincoln cupcake portrait.

Cooked up in the darkest of graveyards, it presents a ghoulish army of delicious creations that appear anything but sugar-coated. Recipes range from Zombie Flesh to Zombie Brain, from Gravestones to Night of the Living Cupcake. All the cooking and icing techniques are included, and every recipe features step-by-step instructions for the baking and icing, alongside devilish illustrations and photography. As a finishing touch, zombie quiz panels will test your undead knowledge, making this the book that will raise the spirits at even the most lifeless of gatherings.

Oh dear, another to add to my must have list - at this rate I'll have to get another billy bookshelf asap :)

I have noticed these books are described as "bucking the cupcake trend", or are part of the "cupcake backlash" but they're not really that different as far as I can tell to any cupcake - Martha's cupcakes has a few Halloween cakes, as do most cupcake books I own - these books are just a few extra themed recipes in my opinion. I still can't wait to try them though, I love zombies!*

If you can't wait for the book to come out to make some gruesome cupcakes what about these wonderful, but gross at the same time, blood clot and brain cupcakes from the wonderful Not Quite Nigella - braaaaains!

*As long as they're not trapping me in cinema toilets as happened at the premiere of Land of the Dead at the Odeon, Leicester Square a couple of years ago - I was petrified!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Put down the spoon and walk slowly away from the jar

I had been meaning to try to bake some sticky toffee cupcakes for some time, and this week a bad morning at work and some expensive dates in my cupboard reaching their best before date led me to taking an afternoon off work and baking these absolutely gorgeous cupcakes from a recipe by Fiona Cairns.

The recipe is pretty straight forward but I changed a couple of things. As usual it would seem with recipes involving the soaking of dates it says naff all about what to do after the soaking time. Do you drain them, or keep all the water or what? Or am I being stupid and everyone else on the planet knows automatically what to do in such circumstances? Please let me know if you are clued up as this is the second recipe this has happened in (the other is for the Sticky Toffee Pudding in the Masterchef cookbook - as you can see my use of dates is quite one-dimensional!). So, I drained off some of the liquid as it seemed a lot to add to the mixture, but kept some in and they came out perfect - moist and gooey! This is when I wish I had smelly-vision as the smell in my kitchen when they were baking was amazing, but I resisted eating even one unfrosted as I was being good!

I also made my own version of the frosting.

I originally planned to buy dulche de leche as I was feeling just too lazy to make my own in a pot of boiling water for hours (as suggested by loads of people on Twitter when I said I was going to buy it!) and I'm quite accident prone and I didn't fancy scraping sticky goo off my kitchen ceiling for months if the tin exploded - something similar happened in my aunt's kitchen with a tin of steam pudding and no matter how many times my aunt cleaned it and my uncle painted over the stain it remained there as clear as day!). Alas my local Tescos is rubbish and I couldn't get dulce de leche - so I tried to make the caramel, twice. And twice I got over cautious and took it off the heat too soon. Then I tried to make dulce de leche in the microwave as after some internet research I was led to believe it was easy and worked a treat. It didn't - although it resembled dulce de leche the taste was grainy and unpleasant and the smell put me off ever eating caramel again. So I gave up for the night. Packed the cupcakes away all snug in cupcake tins and forgot about them.

The next day I sent Manny to Waitrose armed with instructions to buy dulce de leche or Bonne Maman confiture de caramel and if he couldn't get it to text me asap and I'd go in search of it myself elsewhere.

Thankfully good old Waitrose came to the rescue and we sourced some of the confiture de caramel. Is it me or does the name confiture de caramel just oooooze off your tongue? Or maybe I'm just thinking of the oozy caramel goodness that I insisted on taste-testing for quite some time before adding to my vanilla frosting just incase it wasn't right. It was very right, and very ooooooozy!

The recipe calls for salted caramel, but (confession time) I have come to the conclusion I'm really not fond of salted caramel. Pity this realisation didn't come before I spent loads on some salted caramel popping candy lollies. So I missed out the salt and perhaps over-added the caramel - I couldn't help it, it kept turning my frosting a really lovely caramel'y colour!

I filled up my disposable piping bag (using the bag in the glass method which is fab!) and piped the cupcakes using my huge star nozzle and I have to say I'm quite proud of my efforts.

I personally think these are some of the tastiest cupcakes I've made and I recommend the recipe to everyone. I took some to work today and one of the girls in the office said I could charge for them which made me rather chuffed!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Nice cuppa tea and a sit down

As soon as I received my fabulous Teacupcake silicone moulds I knew that I had to make some tea based cupcakes in them! At first I toyed with matcha cupcakes, but as these moulds screamed out 'afternoon tea' and 'English-ness' to me I decided to go with the Earl Grey cupcakes from my Primrose Bakery book.

The recipe was fairly easy to make and the only extra ingredients I had to buy were Earl Grey teabags (I'm more of a Twinnings English Breakfast gal), and some almond extract, which was a bit costly, but was an optional ingredient. I'm glad I bought it, it added a lovely aroma and flavour to the cake.

I halved the mixture and ended up with four teacups and cupcake in a normal cupcake cake. I sat the moulds in a pyrex dish lid so they were easy to get in and out of the oven and helped them retain their shape slightly.

The cupcakes were topped, as suggested, with vanilla frosting (again I halved the recipe), coloured purple with Sugarflair grape violet paste colour. After tweeting about how best to get a nice lilac colour I opted for paste and was lucky enough to find it quite centrally in Islington at the Make Lounge. I also picked up a large piping star and as you can see tried my hand at piping and I am quite proud of how cute they came out for my first proper try at piping. I used some disposable piping bags from Lakeland and I highly recommend them - even I managed to use them without making a mess.

The cupcakes tasted delicious - a hint of flowery Earl Grey-ness to the lovely moist cupcake and as usual the Primrose frosting was very moreish! I'd definitely recommend making them and would make them again. Next time its Matcha cupcakes in the teacups!

Oh, and with disposable bags you can pipe the leftover frosting straight into your mouth when you're finished piping :)

"Tea. Earl Grey. Hot. And whoever this "Earl Grey" fellow is, I'd like to have a word with him... " Captain Picard, Star Trek

Monday, 5 April 2010

Some recent cupcake purchases

First a couple of new purchases from Robert Dyas -another worktop saver (I have about 7 now) and a magnetic memo board which I plan to use for my magnetic spice racks. Both are showing as sold out on the Robert Dyas website, however I've been in the Fleet Street one recently and they have loads. There are also some tins, trays and picnic wear to match.

The purse is from a little store we visited in Chichester when we went to the Swallow Bakery and the matching little notebook is from Peter Jones. The little wedding favour chocolate is also from Peter Jones (how cute would these be at your wedding!)

Tesco's currently have a cupcake range in store and I picked up another worktop saver(I know!) a placemat (for the cats!) and a little cupcake bowl. They have cake tins, biscuit tins and plates to match. They also have pink silicone bakeware - I got a balloon whisk and a pastry brush.

Finally a mousemat from the Paperchase cupcakes range.

And yes my house is getting full.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Teacup cupcakes

Such a dainty and novel way to serve your cupcakes, the Teacupcakes silicone bake and serve moulds by Fred are available in the UK from I want one of those for £14.99 for a set of 4, and worldwide from Fred Flare. I think I may have to add them to my "must have" list

edit: Just bought them via Amazon for just over £10 with free postage hurrah.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

I heart Gü and Goo

As I had the afternoon off work on Thursday (hurrah for Maundy Thursday - one of the few perks of being a Civil Servant) I popped up town to do some shopping (including fresh turmeric from Chinatown which is much nicer than the dried fusty stuff!) and was planning to grab a couple of cupcakes from Lola's in Selfridges and have a wee cake and coffee for lunch but the cafe was so busy I only got takeaway (Lola's you need more seating!). The main reason for venturing down that far on Oxford St was to get Manny one of the newly launched Gü cupcakes as he's been dreaming of them ever since I first mentioned them. I was horrified to see they'd none on display but thankfully a new box of minis arrived. I got 2 of the Gü's and 2 of the Easter special cupcakes (again in minis - the girl in front of me bought the last two - damn her!) which had a Cadbury's mini Creme Egg baked into the base, with Creme Egg fondant frosting and a mini-Creme egg on top. YUM!

First up the Gü cupcake. Usually I'm not a lover of too much chocolate in a cupcake and I had planned to take a bite for research purposes and give the rest to Manny, but this was lush! The base of the cupcake is a very chocolatey moist brownie with chips of lovely chocolate but it was the frosting that made me go "I ganache Gü " - seriously chocolatey ganache that melted in your mouth and was just totally moreish. I am now won over to the chocolate cupcake and I blame Gü.

The Easter special flavour, which in honour of recent Creme Egg adverts I'm naming the Goo cupcake, had to be good to follow the Gü cupcake, and it really did. I had worried with all that Creme Egg business going on it might be a bit sickly (lets face it Creme Eggs although delish are a little bit sickly) but nope, the Goo cupcake had a lovely chocolatey base with lashings of really tasty Creme Egg fondant on top - in fact it was so lush I wished I got a big Goo one and sent silent curses to the girl who stole the last two from me - although I'm sure the button on my jeans was thinking "hurrah!".

I recommend popping over there on Monday if you fancy trying one of these - and you don't have to brave Oxford Street, you can pop to their newly opened Mayfair branch and have a wander through St James' and Green Park first to work up an appetite.

Eat me: Beautiful beetroot cupcakes

A couple of weeks ago I bought Eat Me!: The Stupendous, Self-raising World of Cupcakes and Bakes According to Cookie Girl by Xanthe Milton (aka the Cookie Girl). I wasn't going to buy it as I have enough cupcake cookbooks already, however after having a quick squizz through it I couldn't resist - mainly because it had some unusual recipes such as Jack Daniels and Coke cupcakes, Courgette cupcakes and the first recipe I tried from the book, Beet-rose Cupcakes.

Firstly the recipe was very easy to follow, although I didn't get as many cupcakes as the recipe said I would, although I was using rather large cupcake cases. The beetroot was a doodle to handle (have read reviews saying it turned their kitchen etc purple - I wore gloves when grating and it was fine!) and the mix came together really well, if a wee bit runny, which left me a little worried they weren't going to work. The smell wafting through the house when they were cooking was amazing and I was very excited when they came out of the oven all puffed up and well risen.

Then they fell a bit while cooling and I thought "oh no disaster" but decided to frost them and see how they tasted. The recipe calls for a cream cheese frosting but I fancied vanilla. I made half the recommended amount of frosting as the amounts quoted for 12 were massive and I had more than enough to frost the cupcakes and do a couple of special 'super frosted' cupcakes for Manny :)

The cakes tasted really nice - the hazelnuts worked really well with the hint of beetroot and the cakes were moist and remained so for 3 days after baking. I would highly recommend the recipe to anyone as it was quite easy and had fabulous results. I shall definitely be trying some more recipes from the book - the next ones will be boozy I think :)

Finally - I tried using the frosting kit my friend Dennis bought me some time ago but the bottles were really annoying and difficult to fill. I think I'll just get myself some disposable icing bags from Lakeland. They don't look too bad for my first try at proper frosting though, kinda squished rose-like!